In Italy an often-used phrase says: Fra I due litigant il terzo gode – When there are two people arguing, someone else takes advantage. At the Giro d’Italia, Richard Carapaz (Movistar) is taking advantage of the duel between Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and building his race lead whenever he can.
On Sunday, the 25 year-old Ecuadorian extended his overall lead to 47 seconds after Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif sparked a comedy of errors in a high-speed hectic finale on the roads of the Il Lombardia classic.
As the riders enjoy the second rest day in and around Bergamo on Monday, Carapaz is now a feared overall contender, with his rivals regretting every second they have lost to him.
Carapaz started the Giro d’Italia mountains in 20th place overall. He moved up to eighth in Pinerolo and sixth after the first mountain finish on Friday in Lago Serru, where Nibali and Roglic marked each other and let their rivals ride away. Carapaz then surged away on the final climb of Saturday’s stage to Courmayeur to pull back almost two minutes and become the first Ecuadoran rider to ever wear the race leader’s maglia rosa.
On Sunday, Carapaz’s dream scenarios and maglia rosa defence continued. He was able to go with Nibali when the Italian attacked on the steep Civiglio climb and while Roglic suffered after a late bike change and then crashing on the descent. Carapaz found himself with a leads of 47 seconds on Roglic. Nibali is 1:47 seconds back.
Some have suggested that Carapaz has been gifted the time that put him pink by the Roglic-Nibali duel and other people’s misfortune. He insisted that bike racing is far more complex, with every race leader earning his moment of glory.
“Cycling is like this, some days it touches you, then it happens to another. That’s why it’s such a passionate sport,” Carapaz said in Como after the stage.
“There were no coincidences yesterday. I opened a good gap, I had good legs, that’s the difference. There are comments that people will make, but we’ll see who will win in the end – It could be me or Roglic, or Nibali, or maybe someone else — There is still a lot of kilometres to race.”
Fourth in 2018 and growing in confidence
Many have forgotten that Carapaz finished an impressive fourth in last year’s Giro d’Italia, only 47 seconds off a podium spot. He has a strong Movistar to support him in the final week and is growing in confidence.
“Now we know we’re not doing the Gavia, but it’s still a very complete stage where differences can be made. For the time trial, I am confident that I can go well. But right now I am not obsessing about it, there is still a lot of racing before that,” he said.
Carapaz cleverly anticipated his Movistar teammate Mikel Landa with his attack on the Colle San Carlo climb on the road to Courmayeur to go clear and take the maglia rosa. The Basque rider is sixth overall at 3:15 but has to respect team hierarchy and Carapaz’s pink jersey rather chasing his personal ambitions.
Carapaz started the Giro d’Italia as Landa’s lieutenant. Now he is an equal team leader.
“The team had two cards in this Giro, one of them was me, and Mikel is the first option,” Carapaz made clear, wise beyond his 25 years.
“He has had a big career and an impressive palmares. I really admire him, we get along well, we are more than teammates, we are friends. We are now defending the maglia rosa as a team and that’s the objective, if we have to decide something, we’ll decide it on the road.”
Team leadership is perhaps a complex issue for Movistar directeur sportif Max Sciandri and Chente Garcia, but the Spanish have decades of experience of riding and winning Grand Tours. They are happy to let Nibali and Roglic shoulder the expectation and attention, while they focus on defending the maglia rosa all the way to Verona next Sunday.
"The morale is high. We know nothing is won, but we have a strong team here with some experienced riders,” Garcia explained after the stage in Como.
“Carapaz is clearly one of the strongest riders in the race. It's no accident he's in pink,” Garcia said.
“We are not thinking about the final time trial. That's way too far down the road. We have many more hard stages before that. We expect things to change, but we want to keep Richard in the lead."